People always say I have a glamorous job. I work as a staff photographer and photo editor for Hot Press, an iconic music and lifestyle magazine that has been causing havoc in Ireland for over 35 years. This has seen me rub shoulders with national & international bands and artists, sports stars, politicians, media, TV and film personalities, models and everything in between. Ultimately, my favorite task is capturing images of musicians when they are onstage, off stage, between stage or falling off stage.
My career started purely by chance over 13 years ago. I had been taking a business degree in University College Dublin, but I failed half of my final exams, mainly because I got bored and went on tour with a few bands as a roadie. The repeats were not until the following April, so I had a year to kill. Menial jobs came and went, but a chance call offered an opportunity to answer phones and knock together Powerpoint slides for commercial photographer Dave Cullen. Nothing too taxing. But over the passing months I began to like what was to me the black art of photography. I had no idea how to hold a camera. Clueless would be too kind a term.
My three and a half years there were the ultimate foundation and apprenticeship. I did everything: film processing, editing, printing, duplicating, anything you can imagine in a busy photography practice before the digital revolution. I rarely took pictures. I was mainly assisting, and to me that was key. I studied at close quarters and soaked it up. I wasn’t ready to go out and work in the commercial field, I hadn’t developed the key skills yet. These came through starting at the bottom and working hard on every aspect of my trade.
I moved to an exhibition and design company doing production, and then eight years ago I was employed by Hot Press, initially to work as graphic designer and to run the design department. This made me focus on image correction, color balance and image resolution, skills that I feel are as important as clicking the shutter.
Since my move to the editorial sphere, the whole industry has turned itself inside out. It has seen a massive change in how we receive and deliver our material. The internet is a giant virtual gallery and good equipment is so much more affordable. I have seen some brilliant practitioners in the medium of film who never quite adapted to digital. It’s a new area and skill set, with its own strengths and weaknesses. I use the technology for what it is, and not what it isn’t.
I want to deal with the amazing things you can do as a digital photographer. I still firmly believe that anyone can take a good picture with the technology out there. To me, the art of composition has been lost somewhat, with so many trying to “fix it in the mix” through photo manipulation. Get it right in the camera. In the editorial world I live in, deadlines are such that I can’t spend hours fixing my mistakes in an editing program. How you avoid mistakes and approach a situation is a massive part of being a photographer.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to contribute to The Photoletariat, and look forward to sharing my thoughts, tips, stories, trends, and how I work and why. It’s a two way thing, we are constantly learning. We all have different approaches to photography. It’s the different ideas out there that excite me, and I am hoping that you find something that excites you.